Yesterday I ventured west of New Orleans, through Baton Rouge, and into the outskirts of Lafayette, Louisiana. The mission - stop by five different meat shops, slaughterhouses, and delis to photograph a staple of southern health food, the cracklin. Admittedly, cracklins aren't the most photogenic of foods, being that they're essentially fried chunks of pig skin. As much as I love taking pictures and working through issues such as unflattering subjects, the road trip itself was even more fun.
I hate driving. There's no point in softening that statement. My wife will tell you that I have trouble sitting still and fidget constantly, so being forced to sit in a chair with at least one arm and one leg dedicated to controlling a vehicle is akin to torture. I try to lessen the pain by eating junk food and listening to lectures on tape (though most people would probably say that hearing recordings about diachronic linguistics would make the drive immeasurably worse). Regardless of my distaste for piloting the car, a bag of beef jerky and two wrong turns later (thanks again Google Maps), I made it to the first stop.
The best part about these road trips? Being able to walk into a small, family owned shop, start chatting, and within 30 seconds be on my way to the back of the house to watch them do what they do. They're usually excited about any sort of exposure which certainly helps, but something tells me I couldn't do that if it were a corporately owned business I was walking into. These people cared. I got a slew of stories from the owner of the slaughterhouse. The others were glad to say why their products were special, while throwing the occasional jab at the competition. Keeping in mind that I was shooting pictures in fully operational shops during lunch hour, everybody was incredibly nice and accommodating.
I got to see things cooked and cooled and packaged. I swapped stories with people whose accents we perfect examples of south Louisiana cajun. I got greasy pork fat splattered on my feet and clothes while seeing chunks of meat sizzle in giant pots. Everybody gave me little paper bags with samples to take home. Even before the two hour return trip, all of the bags were soaked through with grease and cajun spices. The car smelled like a meat shop the whole way back, but is was definitely a great day on the road.